The N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released its annual “Highlights of the North Carolina Public School Budget” on May 18. Among other things, the report includes information about teacher compensation, capital outlay, and trends in education spending. JLF’s Dr. Terry Stoops examined the report and published a research brief regarding the report’s updated information on teacher salary. Dr. Stoops writes:

According to DPI budget analysts, North Carolina’s average teacher salary reached $54,682 this year.  The 2019-20 average was an increase of $742 or 1.4% compared to the previous school year.  DPI declares that North Carolina’s average teacher compensation ranks second only to Georgia in the Southeast.  Last year, North Carolina ranked fourth in the region.

Dr. Stoops put this number into greater context:

In recent years, North Carolina teachers have enjoyed sizable pay increases thanks to state legislators and county commissioners.  The statewide average salary rose from $44,990 in 2014 to $54,682 in 2020, a 21.5% surge featuring a 5.3% increase in the average between 2018 and 2019.  This led to a steady climb in the popular National Education Association (NEA) teacher salary rankings.  Last year, North Carolina’s $53,975 average teacher salary ranked 29th in the nation.  When adjusted for cost of living, the state reached the top 20.

Below is a breakdown of this average:

Statistics about average teacher salary get a lot of attention, but there is a lot that average teacher pay cannot tell you. Dr. Stoops explains:

Five years ago, I explained that average teacher pay statistics are misleading. For example, changes in the composition of the workforce, such as hiring greenhorn teachers to replace seasoned educators, may depress the state average…

Average salaries reveal nothing about the relative quality or productivity of the teacher workforce because, as mentioned above, North Carolina does not pay teachers based on quality or productivity.  Additionally, pension and health insurance are significant expenses.  According to the Highlights report, state lawmakers allotted $2.4 billion for employee benefits in 2019.  As the cost of providing benefits increase, lawmakers have less capacity to fund pay raises.

Read Dr. Stoop’s brief here. Read the full DPI report here.